A lush, dramatic biographical novel of one of the most glamorous and alluring legends of Hollywood’s golden age, Marlene Dietrich—from the gender-bending cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the lush film studios of Hollywood, a sweeping story of passion, glamour, ambition, art, and war from the author of Mademoiselle Chanel.
Raised in genteel poverty after the First World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When a budding career as a violinist is cut short, the willful teenager vows to become a singer, trading her family’s proper, middle-class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Weimar Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, seductive silk cocktail dresses, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses and becomes entangled in a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention.
For the beautiful, desirous Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler and the Nazis rise to power, she sets sail for America. Rivaling the success of another European import, Greta Garbo, Marlene quickly becomes one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, starring with legends such as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. Desperate for her return, Hitler tries to lure her with dazzling promises. Marlene instead chooses to become an American citizen, and after her new nation is forced into World War II, she tours with the USO, performing for thousands of Allied troops in Europe and Africa.
But one day she returns to Germany. Escorted by General George Patton himself, Marlene is heartbroken by the war’s devastation and the evil legacy of the Third Reich that has transformed her homeland and the family she loved.
An enthralling and insightful account of this extraordinary legend, Marlene reveals the inner life of a woman of grit, glamour, and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged her own path on her own terms.
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A fascinating book
“Tu etwas Lena. Do something”
Maria Magdelene Dietrich grew up in “genteel poverty” with an ailing sister and a “dragon” of a mother, determined to raise two girls to standards that she refused to see were changing; challenged by society. Marlene loved who she wanted to, how and when she wanted to, as she found her way in judgmental society that simply could not reign her in. She married not only for propriety, but to forward a budding career, using Rudi Sieber as much as he used her. Their daughter, Maria, known by her nickname Heididede until she became an actress, was bounced between them as they tried to keep her safe in their own way.
Dietrich challenged the norms wherever she went. She was ambivalent about sex, but exuded it on screen. She had a way of making you love her and hate her at the same time. She became a naturalized citizen but never stopped loving her Germany, although it started using her. The performer Marlene wasn’t the woman...or was she?
Most regular readers of my reviews know that I may often have an ebook and a paper book going at the same time as no tech is allowed in my bedroom. It isn’t often, however, that the paper book becomes the focus as the ebook languishes. This is no “Madamoiselle Chanel”, but CW Gortner has written a “love letter” to an actress named the 9th greatest of all time according to the American Film Institute.
I admit, I know Dietrich from still photography and a very old 1 sided 78 rpm recording of her singing “Lily Marleen” that belonged to my late German grandfather. He loved Dietrich. Now that I have read this, maybe the next time I see a Dietrich film, I won’t pass it by. 4/5